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Netflix is the latest company to try bypassing Apple’s app store (marketwatch.com)
378 points by gbaygon 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 462 comments



I worked on an app that is in the same category as Netflix. A week before launch, Apple chose to reject us in spite of months of meetings and reviews with their app teams and assurances we were in-bounds since we were working with them for launch featuring.

It came down to the fact we required an email address and password for IAP so you could bring your subscription to the web or other platforms. While everyone else in the category did this, they decided that policy was going to change and we were just going to be the first people to deal with it. Since having an email-based account was core to the architecture and the UX, I went through a week of refactor hell to make emails/passwords optional to meet our launch date.

Since other apps still get to do this, it's clear the policy change message was BS. I've suspected a lot has had to do with Apple's ambitions in the streaming space and their desire to be in a position to offer bundling and other over the top services. They're already trying to control the UX with the TV app and are offering companies better rev share rates to do the integration work.

It seems like Netflix is daring Apple to pull them from the store. If that's what's happening then I applaud them. I understand that Apple may think they're protecting the consumer by creating a walled garden, but as a developer whose livelihood is tied to their decisions, I'm tired of being jerked around.


> They're already trying to control the UX with the TV app and are offering companies better rev share rates to do the integration work.

To be fair, that’s not the only reason the TV app was created. Most notably:

– Users want a single place to keep track of all the shows they’re following across all services. Streaming services weren’t coming up with a cooperative solution for this, so Apple did it instead.

– Plainly put, a large chunk (if not most) streaming service apps suck. The TV app adds value by letting users skip the choppy, inconsistent, badly organized, lowest-bidder browsing UIs so many streaming service apps have and get straight to watching this week’s episode.

I like the TV app and wish it did more. I wouldn’t be bothered if I never had to open a service-specific app again. All I need is a clean, frustration free way to browse the libraries of the services I subscribe to.


On the other hand, Apple controlling the UI means, as usual, they kill other services ability to innovate.

But most apple users don't care to have very limited capabilities as long as the core value is here and it's streamlined in the apple experience. Hell, they used a phone without copy/paste for a long time and it didn't bother them.


If you think other media streaming companies can "innovate" with their interfaces, you're not a cable cutter (I refuse to say cord cutter, my home internet still comes over a cord) who subscribes to Netflix, Hulu, and Directv.

Netflix's interface is horrible on both the Apple TV 4 and modern Rokus. It has a much better interface on the 3rd generation AppleTV where "apps" were limited to just for, all intents and purposed, glorified web apps. They were all running on top of WebKit using a combination of JavaScript and Apple's markup language.


Glorified webapps can't pre-download 50 go of tv shows for my next holidays in the deep country sides. You need file system access for that.


What exactly are you responding to?

I'm responding to the post about "innovation" of apps that not possible if everything goes through the TV app as a central launching pad for videos.


Companies aren't innovating anymore, though. We've reached the point where we have dominant players controlling the field, and any "innovation" we see has to do only with profit margins.


People are trying all kinds of innovations around streaming video apps, you are just aware of them. I am no expert, but off the top of my head I can think of people trying to create streaming subscription services for horror movies, for esports, for anime.. I'm sure most will fail, but who could have predicted Twitch ten years ago?


Maybe the "smartphone" format is played out for now. New innovation may need to come from a new or emerging industry.

Following price and size trends, the next industry would be making a device ~1/50th the size of a "smartphone". Something like the size of a large SD card, probably.


Plenty of ad and dark pattern innovation to do yet :)


I think whether the new apps are innovating is irrelevant. Apple's making the decision for them. As a company, they've always kept things locked down, so I'm not surprised.


On the other hand I don’t understand how Apple approved the Amazon Prim and YouTube Apple TV apps. The UX are horrible and I would rather not use them.

edit: added Apple TV


> Users want a single place to keep track of all the shows they’re following across all services.

Isn't that the problem Trakt [0] solves?

[0] https://trakt.tv/


> Users want a single place to

Imho, we've got to solve that "single place" problem, because it creates a winner-takes-all situation. Not just with apps, but also taxi-cabs, food-delivery, etc. Perhaps a government should step in and say that you can have a "single place" but only if you don't abuse your power.


It's not something you can solve. People want single apps because having to switch across multiple services and multiple accounts (and pay multiple $$$) and remembering what shows are on what services is a piss poor user experience.


Yes, that's why the "platform economy" might need government intervention. A "single place" or "platform", is too detrimental to the economy to ignore as a construct. One reason is that the company behind the platform will now start regulating the market, which is arguably worse than the government regulating it.

For some more insights and viewpoints, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/image/docum...


Isn't government the quintessential "single place" or "platform" problem?


I guess you can answer that by considering this question: what do you prefer, a government regulating your market, or a company?


Building business that solely relies on constant mercy of someone else's platform is an extremely risky endeavor to begin with.


And virtually unavoidable in the smartphone app space because of the gatekeeping function of the stores. I don't know exactly how we got here given that nobody would have accepted this sort of curation on a desktop, but we somehow just walked into it on our phones.


Mass market is how we got here.

The phone made the flow of non tech savvy users the main source of income.

Before, you had to please geeks, and they thought about products, compared, communicated, criticized and decided where to spend their money.

Now, you have to please people that chose products based on ads, design and trends, but don't have any basic understanding of their device yet makes a lot of noise when they get them self in trouble.

That's the same story anywhere you start with a group of passionate people on something that proves successful: amateurs arrive, then money, then policy.

Any job, hobby, venue, city, sport, product, etc. is susceptible to this problem.

It's why the mt Everest is now an expensive highway full of frozen shit, why battle net turned into an insult party, why Adventure park now have those unusable security systems that take the fun out of it, why websites abuse "target=_blank", why you have weird safety messages on microwaves and why you need to provide medical certificates for so many stupid things now a day.

But.

It's also why you can have a device in your pocket that act as your camera, tv, music player, news provider, landline, game console, pager, gps, phonebook for a 10th of the price of a gigantic calculator from 40 years ago.

In the hilarious canadian comedy, "The Decline of the American Empire", the main character makes a point, stating there are 3 things that makes a winner in history: 1, number. 2, number. 3, number.


You should do a post about your comment's first 4 paragraphs, something we can point our "almost there" non-geek friends to.


And arguably far more necessary. We have our phones turned on and with us almost 100% of the time we are alive. They can track our locations and hear everything we say. It's more important to control what apps can have access to with smartphones than it was on any prior platform.


Yeah, a difference between my phone and my laptop is that my phone needs to basically be an appliance: it needs to work consistently in all sorts of situations so I don’t get stranded somewhere in an emergency. For this purpose, having a really strict gatekeeper that limits what apps can do is a feature, not a bug.


  control what apps can have access to with smartphones
But the Play store doesn't do that. It just documents what permissions are sought by the app, not whether this privileges are appropriate... hence flashlight apps seeking Contacts and Location.


Play Store is at the other end of the spectrum where you can literally upload massive amounts of malware and no one bats an eye.


The issue is not that a manual review process should catch bugs. The issue is that Android’s permission system allows it.


It's great that it allows it.

The problem is that a lot of users don't want to admit that they are not competent to decide whether the app truly needs those permissions or not.

If there would be a power user subscription for Android, it'd be great. It'd pay for itself, etc. (Of course purists still could just root the device and so on.)


Who said anything about bugs? The point is to do something proactive to stop apps that don't conform to your policies (whichever they may be - maybe you don't allow collection of data, or using a specific interface, definitely not malware, etc.) instead of just reacting, and even that too late.

Apple is at one extreme blocking even legitimate things for obscure and esoteric reasons. Google is at the other, letting all kinds of crap in the store only to review it later, maybe. [1]

I'm sure my remark ruffled feathers on some Android fans but it doesn't make it less true.

[1] https://venturebeat.com/2018/01/30/google-play-removed-70000...


The point is to do something proactive to stop apps that don't conform to your policies (whichever they may be - maybe you don't allow collection of data, or using a specific interface, definitely not malware, etc.) instead of just reacting, and even that too late.

I’m saying that with millions of apps in the store and seeing that all app testing is black box testing, the reviewers are not going to catch most things. The operating system itself should not allow certain things. There is no reason that most of the permissions that SpyPhone needs should be allowed by Android.


Then to what would you attribute the fact that the AppStore is much better curated than the Play Store? Fewer application submissions? More honest coders?

It's a two part answer probably: Apple's store policies are discouraging some of the unwanted behavior, and the actual enforcement of those policies is stricter. Not just a second though.


Most of the “honesty” comes from iOS and it’s just a better thought out model than Android when they introduce new features.

Ad Blockers - the framework is built in a way that third party ad blockers can be installed but they don’t have access to your browsing history. They basically just submit a JSON file that is integrated into Safari and some types of web views

Third party keyboards - because of the opportunity of keyloggers, you have to explicitly go into settings to install one, then you have to give it permission to access the network as a separate step after a huge warning, and even then when you enter a password, iOS switches back to the default keyboard.

SafariViewController - with traditional embedded webviews, the hosting app has complete access to everything you are doing. The SafariViewController runs as a separate process.

The only way that an app on Android can (could?) know if it should stop playing sound was to ask for full permissions to access your phone state.

Why does any app need full access to my storage like Android allows? With iOS, an app has full access to its own file store in iCloud, you can grant it access to your photo library or music library (read only) but it’s very explicit. Any other document outside of those, the user explicitly tells it what file to open.

Why would I ever give a third party app access to my SMS messages? Why is that even an option on Android?

I download stuff without regard on my iPhone because I know that it can’t do anything crazy.

Even if SpyPhone didn’t go through any review process, it’s a track surface is limited on non jailbroken iOS devices.


> Most of the “honesty” comes from iOS and it’s just a better thought out model than Android

That's essentially what I had to say. Apple enforces these policies - and sometimes will go overboard. I still very much prefer it to what Google does where as a user I feel they are completely neglecting to "take my side". I am not their valued customer, I am just a source of personal data.


And yet open source solutions seem way less popular on mobile than their desktop equivalents.

Seems more like a justification for passive acceptance to me.


Since PRISM, we know the players you really don't want to be able to track your location have a backdoor in those systems anyway, and the manufacturers are forbidden by law to talk about it.

It's annoying that candy crush get a piece of your private life.

But it's nowhere close to the problem of big entities that already have a huge control on your life to be able to know everything about you while you can't know anything about them.

The app store is just a symptom of it though, and a small one.


My phone is on and with me for less than 50% of the time.

Just saying; phones are not as important to everyone as you think.

(yes, I am over 40)


Good for you. Unfortunately, your personal habits aren't really relevant to the global impact of these policies.


I'm sure you probably "haven't owned a TV in 10 years" and wonder "do people still watch TV".

Yes that was a popular post on Slashdot years ago.


Why would you be sure of that? As it happens, I have a TV and watch it every day.

In fact, research (in the UK) suggests that people who use phones less are more likely to watch TV than people who use them a lot.

It wasn't my intention to "boast" that I don't use a phone much. The post I responded to was making a point based on the assumption that "we" have our phones on 100% of the time. I was just trying to point out that there are people in that "we" for which that is not true.


Desktop OS where designed for physical media first (side loading). The freedom came first, became part of the expected feature of a desktop, and it would be difficult to take it away.

iPhone defined the image of the smartphone and they started internet first with a curated appstore.

Also remember that in day to day life, from a user perspective, there are more benefits than downsides to the AppStore. Even today, finding software, software update, compatibility, license management, consistent original media availability, ... are actual problems in the desktop (especially windows) world and almost non existent in the iphone/smartphone world.

To go back on the topic. I do hope that the TVApp does succeed, otherwise eventually a market actor will solve the problem and someone will wonder in 10 years how we ended up with cable companies again.


We got here rather simply... Apple introduced the iPhone with no apps at all, then gave a half-assed open solution (bookmarks on your home screen, essentially), then they introduced the App Store, with their rules. Since there was no other way to get apps on the phone (short of jailbreaking), App Store won and Play Store was built in this model.

Other smartphones in this space at the time (Windows Mobile and Blackberry) didn't quite capture the imaginations like Apple did. WM was fairly easy to sideload apps to; not sure about Blackberry.


Unless they've changed it recently, you can install anything you want on an Android phone. You just have to change a setting to allow apps from unknown sources. It takes a few seconds.

I believe this is still the only way to get the Humble Bundle app/game installer on your phone. https://www.humblebundle.com/app


Not to mention you can download other app stores to your device if you wish, including Amazon's and FDroid.


Play Store itself behaves similarly to App Store. Android lets you sideload through a separate mechanism, and all Google has to do is remove that switch from Android


They could do lots of things, but absent any evidence that they're likely to, it's just wild speculation.

And it's not "sideloading." There's no other local device involved. Once you've flipped the "unknown sources" switch, you just go to a website, download, and install, same as you would on a desktop.


This is why I was always bemused at the glee with which people reacted to the deaths of all the other smartphone endeavors.

And the tech press played a huge role in this with their blatant bias as well in my opinion.

A healthy platforms war would have ensured that Apple/Google would have had to think twice about some of these practices.


You have to get there from the start; the app store has to be there from day one. Since that didn't happen on the desktop, it's pretty hard to retroactively introduce one (although Microsoft is trying hard).


Which major operating system doesn't have an app store equivalent?


Thats being pretty pedantic. Introduce one successfully is a pretty obvious implication. Even after almost a decade of desktop app stores they’re still really struggling to get user acceptance outside a few niches. In fact the only one I’d count as an actual commercial success is Steam.


indeed, my mistake I misunderstood the post


Classy, +1


Any business solely relies on the constant mercy of their power and water utilities.

For some reason, though, we don't tolerate Seattle City Light choosing to arbitrarily not supply electricity to another company, or Cupertino's water utility charging extortive rates to Apple, just because the latter has deep pockets.


Those utilities are heavily regulated. If they want to change their "terms of service" they have to go through a public commission.


Funny you mention Seattle City Light, have you seen their new (vulnerable) smart meters? They're fun to tango with, broadcasting with FSK modulation on 900Mhz and 2.4Ghz :3


So, they are technically incompetent, and your business depends on them? Sounds like your business is unsustainable!


To be clear, most smart meters employ any kind of encryption. Worse yet, the more rural areas switched to smart meters years before we did here in Seattle, meaning those utility customers have older meter models with even less protection.

Short of opting out of smart metering (which you can do), your pretty well stuck with a vulnerable meter in much of the US.


They won't pull the Netflix app, they just won't let it update until they've made changes. Spotify tried directing users to the web and that's what happened with them.


What if Spotify would make their app using JavaScript (something like React Native or Cordova) with ability to update bypassing AppStore?


They would reject the update that attempted to roll out that system.


Except that bunches of apps with that model are being accepted now.


That doesn't matter. The app store review process isn't an impartial court of law, where everyone gets a fair hearing. If apple want to do things for competitive or capricious reasons, they can.


Live-updating apps are fine.

One that attempts to use that functionality to get around the App Store's guidelines, especially one as prominent as Spotify's, will be noticed and yanked from the store.


If I was Spotify, the absolute last thing I would want to do is piss off Apple seeing as Apple Music is their main competitor right now.


I actually just let my membership to their developer program lapse after 4 years.

In addition to having to pay money to develop on their platform, the return I get is questionable.

The straw was that they're forcing me to republish old programs, just to force them through their new compliance tunnels.

Frankly, I'm sick of their hoops and their walled-garden. I'm ok with forcing users to the browser now. Amazon does it for digital sales.


I think you're being a bit disingenuous here.

The point of republishing old programs is to make sure they are running against the latest SDK. This is an important aspect for the ecosystem. It forces apps to work properly on the latest OS as well as support technologies like App Thinning.

It's not just to mess you around for compliance reasons.


A website from 1996 will look much the same in a modern version of Chrome. Good luck with your SDKs.


I guess what we're seeing here is a developer/development-first ideology versus a platform-first ideology.

Should the developer/development have to resubmit to the benevolent platform? Or should the platform have to support the development that has occurred?

I don't really care, but I know that I'd rather develop somewhere where my contributions aren't under constant threat of being wiped off the landscape.

Again, good luck with the other thing.


You have painted this false dichotomy.

In Apple's world: The users come first. Everyone else second.


The policies described in the root comment we're replying to have nothing to do with putting the user first. Apple puts Apple first, even when it's bad for users.


Maybe. But how bad would the user experience be if every time a user went to do an IAP, they were presented with a link to an external web page asking for their credit card information? Would that affect the security and privacy of the platform? Would it affect users' trust in the platform?


Maybe if Apple didn't charge many times more than credit card processors to handle payments, developers wouldn't be trying to avoid getting robbed.


Maybe if credit card processors started inventing platforms for software distribution and made them available and easy to use for anyone, they wouldn’t.


I strongly disagree. Apple has made a lot of user-hostile moves recently. Suppressing ports to sell more dongles, constant nagging for apple paid services, uping prices to make up for lack of growth in volumes. Profits first, users and developers not on the map.


I find it amusing that people think a company making $10B in profit a quarter is trying to use $30 dollar dongles to make money.


Apple has been "suppressing ports" since they introduced the iMac over 20 years ago. The USB-C transistion didn't happen as quickly as the original USB transistion.

You don't have to buy dongles from Apple.

I am a developer but if more developers put users before themselves, we wouldn't have Electron apps.


Yes. Unless you want to use Google Maps. My SO just asked me to fix her phone to give her biking directions again. She uses the "Google" app to look up stuff, as far as I can tell the OS is now intercepting calls to https://maps.google.com and opening them in Apple Maps instead?!


That doesn’t happen. If you click on an address from Google’s website, it opens in Google Maps if it is installed. If you click on a link from any Google app it opens Google maps by default.


Mmm, well yes, happening now. From the "Google" app made a search, a long touch on the Directions link shows a maps.google.com URL, Google Maps is installed, even reinstalled GM thinking the registration was corrupted somehow. It opens in Apple Maps. Uninstalled Apple Maps and it prompt me to reinstall.

Perhaps since this is the Google app the URL they show for long touch is not actually what is getting executed when you tap, maybe they are sending a routing command directly, but either way there's a number of UI "nudges" to push you to Apple Maps over Google Maps that you cannot adjust or turn off without jailbreaking the phone.


I just clicked on a direction from Google on Safari and it took me to Google Maps.

I did the same from Chrome. It took me to Google Maps

I went to a third party web site within Chrome, click on "get directions", it took me to Google Maps.


Want to install a pepe the frog app? You can't. Apple decided it's too sensitive. Want to play a porn game? You can't.

Moral panics come first. User second. Developers third.


Not so much platform first as user first. Platforms are nothing without users and developers are nothing without platforms. And luck isn’t needed when your platform is already the best. :)


That's fair, but currently being "the best," doesn't ensure that status.


And then you end up with Windows. Hack upon hack upon hack to keep old software running. It increases the surfaces of bugs and security vulnerabilities.


And you need that if that platform is to be used for anything serious. I don’t see Macs in the enterprise. And linux has the same obsession with backward compatibility / not breaking user space when making changes in the kernel.


Yet and still iPhones and iPads are. There are many reasons that Macs aren't in the Enterprise. But backwards compatibility isn't the main one.


To be fair, browsers aren't always perfect about preserving backwards compatibility for every API.

Miles ahead of native, and hundreds of miles ahead of mobile. For the most part, the web is one of the most future-proof platforms you can develop for, if not the most future-proof platform you can develop for.

But there's still room to improve.


IBM mainframes are the most future-proof platform you can develop for. Current mainframes have backwards compatibility going back to the 70's. Perhaps even the 60's.

The web is probably second, though. Either the web or Windows.


If we're including devices that almost nobody has access to, the most future proof device is not the one that keeps backwards compatibility, but the one that only has one version that is still produced, since initial compatibility is the only compatibility.

Any tricks and additional uses you develop for the abacus will likely long outlive any IBM if it's worthwhile. That doesn't mean it's particularly easy to develop something people will find worthwhile enough to propagate forward though. Backwards compatibility only matters as long as you have something that ca take advantage of it and a need to do so.


Pity that it still doesn't provide a fully Delphi like development experience.


What a hilarious statement to make.

Sure a website from 1996 will look the same. It will also have no accessibility, work terribly on mobile, be largely like reading a Word document and have none of the interesting features of modern web sites. Your world is not the world most people want.


I can think of some sites on the order of 15 - 20 years old that work better on mobile than sites made in the last 5.

And while the various accommodations for accessibility that have come up over the last two decades are nice, the fact is that most of the web was fairly accessibly using specialized user agents (or even just Lynx) by the very late 90s.


Hacker News is one such site that is very basic and has none of the stuff you outline as modern features. You know what? It is by far one of the most performant and enjoyable websites I use daily.


Seriously ? Sure pick out a few examples.

Now let's talk about taking the entire web back to 1996. No Javascript, Websockets/SSE, AJAX, CSS etc. You really think all of the innovations made in the last two decades is just throw-away ?


> let's talk about taking the entire web back to 1996.

Let's not, that's a tangent. The original statement to which you replied was this:

> A website from 1996 will look much the same in a modern version of Chrome. Good luck with your SDKs.

That remains true, despite the advances you listed. http://www.thekrib.com/ is an example from 1994 which still looks like it renders about the same. It doesn't have the bells and whistles, but the point is, _what was written remains available._ Interactive applications tracking a moving SDK cannot be left for future generations, they have to be maintained. Putting non-interactive content into those types of applications is forcing a maintenance burden forevermore.


The goalposts have wheels!


The modern browser is quite good at rendering text, just as it was in 1996. The web is largely still about words. What improvement is so important as to strike the words of those from 1996 off the record?


Nobody here has argued to start striking outdated websites off the record. However the advent of reader mode has certainly helped things in that neighborhood come through a bit cleaner.

But as yet websites don’t control rapidly evolving and privacy sensitive hardware on mobile devices. Also, user time spent in apps versus web browsers is hovering around ~90% versus 10. Might it be possible that having an up-to-date experience as it’s enforced by mobile platform owners could contribute somewhat to this abundant user preference for apps?


There is a lot to be said about adaptive web fails, text or graphics overflowing outside of the screen while locking the zoom level, botched overrides of browser behaviors. A simple old html page is often more readable on a smartphone than a page where the developper tried hard to fuck with the way it is rendered on a small screen. If the text is too small you can easily zoom in. And most smartphones these days have large, high dpi screens.


It came down to the fact we required an email address and password for IAP so you could bring your subscription to the web or other platforms. While everyone else in the category did this, they decided that policy was going to change and we were just going to be the first people to deal with it. Since having an email-based account was core to the architecture and the UX, I went through a week of refactor hell to make emails/passwords optional to meet our launch date.

Are you sure that’s the only reason? I can do in app purchases with Udemy that required an account to be used everywhere.

I also know that Hulu, Pluralsight, Netflix, and Evernote all work this way.


The rest of the comment noted that it wasn't exactly a fair reason, but it was apparently the one given.

> Since other apps still get to do this, it's clear the policy change message was BS.


IIRC, even YouTube subscriptions initiated on an iPhone don't transfer cleanly over to the web.


> but as a developer whose livelihood is tied to their decisions, I'm tired of being jerked around.

I am a developer of a dozen very popular apps and I couldn't disagree more with your position.

Developers having a wonderful experience or sustained livelihood isn't the goal here. It's to make sure consumers are protected and cared for. As Tim Cook would put it that's their North Star.


I agree that this is mostly how Apple views things, but what you said doesn't contradict the post you replied to at all. He is a developer whose livelihood is dependent on Apple, and he is tired of being jerked around. Just because Apple doesn't prioritize his problems doesn't make that untrue.


I don’t think the parent argued that his feelings of frustration are somehow untrue, but was just pointing out that they have to be weighed against the billions of users that Apple decides to prioritize for. Preventing a constant “go to our sketchy website and put in your credit card” experience for IAPs is likely a smart trade off vs a couple weeks of developer frustration surrounding honoring external purchases.

Also, I’m still not clear on how OC’s app was treated differently than others in the space. From his description it doesn’t sound out of the ordinary to me, but I suppose it’s possible I’m misunderstanding something.


Isn't that illegal? Didn't Microsoft lose a huge case about IE just like this?


Only because Microsoft was in a monopoly position in it's market. Apple isn't, and thus is not subject to the same oversight.

Not that the current administration is going to be performing any anti-trust litigation anyway.


We currently have duopoly which is not much better than actual monopoly.

The reason we don't have anti trust litigation is because neither GOP and DEMs are interested to do it and that's because these companies since them got smarter and heavily lobby.

Corruption all the way.


When you write DEM in all caps just because GOP is written in all caps, you sound like one of the people who write MAC in all caps just because PC is all caps.


The duopoly of iOs/Android is still far better than the duopoly of democrat/republican.


Whether Apple is in a monopoly position (with respect to the market for iOS apps) is an open question, really: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Inc._v._Pepper


Interesting, the supreme court is hearing that case currently which makes these articles very convenient timing wise: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-18/apple-get...


> but as a developer whose livelihood is tied to their decisions, I'm tired of being jerked around.

Let me get this straight. A for-profit company providing a marketplace that has allowed you to sustain a livelihood as a developer is now be considered as "jerking you around". This is truly fascinating.


Is it surprising? No. Is it being "jerked around"? Absolutely.

A company wielding their quasi-monopoly power to change the rules of the game at the last minute on a whim is precisely what I'd call being "jerked around".


> They are being redirected to the mobile web version of the app and asked to enter payment details with Netflix directly.

Sorry, but if Apple's policies are applied consistently (I know they often aren't), this won't fly.

I have an app with a basic email/password sign-in screen (the app represents a small part of a larger web-based SaaS product). Apple has rejected my app for including anything in the app that even remotely hints to the service existing outside of the App Store. This includes a "Sign Up" button linked to the web signup, a "Learn More" button that links to the website, or even a "Support" button that has navigation that can lead to a signup or pricing page. After a long chat with someone from the App Store review team, I learned that you can't link to any page of a site that contains other links that can indirectly lead to a signup or pricing information. It's a pretty harsh policy.

So my app was finally approved, but without any links to support documentation on my site. Congratulations, Apple - you win :)


It will be some vague "you can't do this here" message that doesn't directly link. A la current state of affairs with Spotify / Audible / Amazon

As a suggestion regarding your situation... obviously its more work but you could always open the support pages in a webView that blocks the purchase urls via [1].

1. https://developer.apple.com/documentation/uikit/uiwebviewdel...


IF applied consistently. This is Netflix though. I'll be interested to see how this plays out.


It's a lot easier and cheaper to switch from a $10 a month Netflix subscription to a $10 a month Hulu/HBO Go/Amazon Prime subscription than it is to switch from an iPhone to an Android phone.


Those all have different programming. It's even easier for loads of people to scream at Apple for removing one of their favorite apps.


The big players can dictate a lot of the rules of the game.


They also often get their own rules. I've designed apps that onboard exactly like the big boys, and been rejected.


Sometimes. Apple certainly pushed back against Uber when they were skirting the rules a few years ago.


I wonder if it would be possible for developers / other stake holders to launch an investment fund who's sole purpose is buy shares in Apple / Microsoft / etc with the view to influence internal policy.

Activist investor style.


Activist investors are a bit of a misnomer, unlike traditional activists these investors are squarely interested in their own investment.


And those shares would lose money specifically because of what they want to accomplish. Your “fund” would lose more from the stock loss than the gain from attempting to influence policy.

And you’d need a $100 billion fund to even get noticed. Even Warren Buffet isn’t calling the shots at Apple.


Given Apple’s current market-cap - over 1TN USD - you’ll need a lot of investors.

You’d have much better success by spending a fraction of the money to hire goons to kidnap Apple’s executives driving home from work and “convince” them to change corporate policy that way.


But why would people be signing up from your App if not by discovering about your app through the App store? Is that not marketing through the App store?


We have a couple apps and there really is no "discovery" through the App Store. You have to pay for ads, whether in the stores directly or in the many ad networks that put you in other apps or other advertising. Unless you're already at the top of the lists (because of your off-store brand), or you win the lottery in the game of getting featured, the App Store doesn't drive new users.

For the majority of apps, the App Store doesn't provide discovery. It provides a nearly frictionless delivery and purchase interface. That's worth something, but not 30% off the top. That's worth a premium on top of processing fees, like X cents per transaction and Y% of the transaction, where Y < 6, I think.

Edit: I should say, I don't think there's any way this is going to happen. It would take an anti-trust action to make any difference, but that's not likely to happen.


Searching for Netflix on Google, the App Store link is the second link with reviews and a button to install. Right after the main website. Which one do you think a user is likely to click? Is that App store marketing? In an App centric world there are countless other ways where users discovers apps first or even developers/businesses/website want the users to download the app first.


Yes, if you already know Netflix. For pretty much every non-Netflix level app, people are unlikely to be googling for your specific app. The little game TinyWings has made millions and they wouldn’t have made anything of it weren’t for App Store discovery. People overestimate their own importance in the marketplace — discovery matters. If you sell an app for $2 and you have an acquisition cost of $0.60 through, for example, PPC, then you have spent the same you would have paid in App Store commission and then you have to still handle billing, chargebacks, credit card fees, have a download server to handle the traffic as well as tax collection for every single country in which you sell.

Look at profitability of Android vs iOS — almost universally iOS makes a far greater profit that more than offsets the commission. I wouldn’t want to buy an app outside of the App Store because frankly, I don’t trust most developers with my personal information nor do I trust them to not engage in practices that are contrary to my privacy or enagage in sloppy coding that might subject my device to security risks. As a consumer, the App Store is great.


At the same time, there is a large contingent of apps in the app store that have 0 interest in discovery through the app store.

There are lots of b2b apps that are fully sold on the Enterprise level and the app is simply an add on. It is very frustrating to have to work within the walked garden when this is the case.


Amazon app already does this.


I personally wouldn't bother with ios in that case.


I miss the idea that a platform, applications, and marketplace were not a vertical stack owned by one entity.

As a consumer, I’d love to buy a phone, not a content distribution straight jacket.


For the non-technical majority they are a huge advantage. We're never going to have average users fully technically aware.

I well remember the state of Windows during Win 98 and XP where most had no idea what they were downloading, and it seemed every machine had malware, hidden pop ups and 37 IE toolbars. I was constantly asked to clean up friend's machines from the damage done by Kazaa and its associated garbage or some other drive-by crap.

If a restrictive app store is the cost of avoiding that and gaining some minimum enforced standards, safety and confidence to avoid crapware, I've actually come to think it a price well worth paying.

The fact that Google are so laissez faire about the Android app store, and let so much crap in, just further highlights the potential benefits that Google aren't fully providing.


Imagine of Microsoft had a similar store to Apple in 1995 with the same restrictions on downloading and executing external code. The web itself could have been killed in the cradle on day one.

The fact that you are here typing this reply right now is entirely because of the state of Windows during 98 and XP. It's a balance between security and freedom. You are arguing for the benefit of security while ignoring the effect that freedom has had on the last 30 years of computing.


> We're never going to have average users fully technically aware.

OP is establishing that there are different types of users with different usage requirements.

You and Grandma are very different users. Grandma is probably much better served by an iPad and App Store than a true general computing device. Grandma is also not going to invent the next internet.

Maybe we should embrace this dichotomy instead of pretending one size fits all.

Interesting aside: How much innovation does the world miss out on if we raise the next generation of users on locked down "Grandma" interfaces?


There are two problems with this: Both these types of users can't co-exist on the same device type or ecosystem. Grandma might not invent the next internet on an iPad but your kid is also never going to get that opportunity.

And secondly, since you can't install the next internet on the iPad, Grandma is never going to get to use it.


> Both these types of users can't co-exist on the same device type or ecosystem.

That's my point though. One size fits all doesn't work all that well in practice. As a technologist you seem to prefer the freedom of general compute. As a fellow technologist, I agree. We are a minority though. The vast majority of people don't seem to want much more from their devices than a working browser. (and maybe Instagram). To them things like root access are more a liability than asset.

> Grandma might not invent the next internet on an iPad but your kid is also never going to get that opportunity.

This is a real concern to me. What happens when whole generations view computers as black boxes of consumption rather than tools of creation / something to tinker with? Probably nothing good.


> What happens when whole generations view computers as black boxes of consumption rather than tools of creation

You're already seeing it. Most people under 35 have likely spent most of their "computing time" by playing games on game consoles, which are precisely black boxes of consumption. And this is the result: walled gardens.


> What happens when whole generations view computers as black boxes of consumption rather than tools of creation / something to tinker with?

But that's how every generation since computers existed has mostly viewed them; tinkerers have been a small minority, even if young tinkerers-of-computers were an iconic image associated with the first generation in which that was a possible thing. That wasn't because they were common, but because it amazed (mostly older) people that they existed at all.


I think we agree... I highly recommend iPhones and iPads to non-technical friends and family members for that exact reason. They are essentially foolproof.

But I really don't like the fact that they are fully gated devices. Apple has already keep useful, but competitive-to-them, applications off their platform. They've force developers to eliminate user-beneficial changes to their applications. This is not good even for non-technical users but it's much more difficult to quantify.

One real example is that all users would benefit from alternative competitive web browsers on iOS but they can't have it.


“User-beneficial” — according to whom? How do all users benefit from alternative web browsers on iOS? I would argue that users benefit more from security. Is there really much a user can’t do on iOS? What exactly are they missing out on? And whatever that is, does it offset the value from being reasonably safe from malware or badly written apps?


What competitive software is not available on iOS? Every service that Apple sells has a comietitjr on iOS.


Compilers and IDEs for major programming languages


Emulators for classic arcade games (or emulators of almost any sort).


Emulators from third parties not related to the original publisher are using copyrighted firmware and the only way you are going to play games realistically is using pirated images. I'm no making a moral judgement. Plenty of movies have fallen off of the back of truck onto my Plex Server.

The company that owns both the original console and the copyrighted game is free to publish a game that runs on top of an emulator. Sega has plenty of games on the App Store that are basically the emulator bundled with the game image.


Chrome


It's on the App Store.


A Firefox and Chrome themed wrapper around safari are available on the app store. The meaningful components of those browsers are not.


Well for Google, the "meaningful parts" is to collect data. For users, it's to be able to sync bookmarks, passwords, etc.


I'm pretty ok with OSX and that's an OS that is both noob-friendly and comes with powerful modification features.

I do think both types of users can co-exist on the same platform. People of all knowledge levels use Windows & Android.


>Both these types of users can't co-exist on the same device type or ecosystem.

This is false.

An eco system can easily contain a locked down channel for installing programs as well as an open channel to side-load.


The context here is that we're discussing fully locked down platforms.


But that's with the content ofthe argument that a functioning eco system needs to be locked down.

It doesn't really.


> Grandma might not invent the next internet on an iPad but your kid is also never going to get that opportunity.

Actually Playgrounds is pretty amazing. And you can definitely spin up a development platform in AWS and then Remote Desktop from your iPad or access via Coda or similar Terminal tools.


At this point in time "Grandma" could have been involved in the creation of the internet and working on the next big thing. Maybe use the word expert or techie or something.

Edit: :)


You have completely twisted that point to mean something else.

The point is that certain parts of our society are not technical and will never be technical. Despite the expectations and wishes of a tiny minority of technical people.


That claim could be made at literally any point in history. Even in 1983, any employee at ARPA could have been a grandparent. Old people have been involved in technology since the very beginning. I'm not seeing your point.


I was thinking the internet was started around 1970. Your point is correct, but any Grandma working on it then is very likely dead, so unlikely to be working on the next internet.


True. I just wanted a nice folksy metaphor.


Should have added a smiley or something to my comment. I meant it more as a history remimder then social commentary.


Quite a lot, if there's no easy way to step outside of the walled garden. You could argue that Apple does provide one with their developer efforts, but I'm not sure if that quite cuts it.


And how many unnecessary toolbar installs in IE, viruses, and ransomware do we avoid?


It's always hard to predict how things would have turned out given various alternate possibilities. The web could have been killed, or thrived anyway.

Perhaps a locked-down Microsoft store would have had all kinds of ancillary benefits such as freeing up all the money spent padding their bottom line and dealing with externalities (malware cleanup, etc) and redirecting it towards having competitive open-source/GPL products for regular users. Perhaps all the forgotten OSes that died out due to Microsoft's dominant position would have found their fanbases and survived (OS/2 Warp, AmigaOS, BeOS, etc.) and the web would have avoided the IE6 problem that was due to Microsoft's prevalence.

Microsoft may have brought computing to the masses in the 90's due to Windows prevalence in that era, but assuming the web wouldn't have happened without them is a bit much.


> The web itself could have been killed in the cradle on day one.

The web is such a killer app, that if MS blocked it, it would be a problem for MS, not the web, imho.

Also IANAL, but given that MS launched a competing service - The Microsoft Network - this seems like a huge anti-trust issue.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSN_Dial-up

The combination of consumer demand for web access + anti-trust would probably crush MS, and it would have to provide access.

Another factor is that Windows was always a target for hackers, so it's virtually certain there'd be some jailbreaking solution that everyone would use if MS started blocking access to killer apps like web access.

MS was a near monopoly, but there were enough exceptions that people were aware how amazing the web is.

Finally, if MS took the Walled Garden approach, it's easy to argue it wouldn't be the monopoly it was. MS benefited immensely from its platform being "free" (as in pirated) and "open" (as in hackable and insecure).

There was a company who took the other approach. Its name is Apple and it wasn't doing too well against MS in 1995.


We are talking hypothetical here -- all things being equal. Apple doesn't have anti-trust problems, they've closed off hackers, etc. Apple might not have a monopoly but closed-platform mobile OS is basicaly the whole market.

But that's all beside the point, the web was a killer app because it was available. Microsoft could have killed it with the same policies as iOS long before it was ever popular. And not by targeting it specifically for competitive reasons but just because it would have been against the very same rules we take for granted now. It wouldn't have even had to be conscious effort.

You can't even get another web browser on iOS! We literally can't even invent the "next web" on mobile. There's no point even trying.


> We literally can't even invent the "next web" on mobile. There's no point even trying.

This right here.

I wonder if anyone at Apple even cares. Maybe they’re so pompous they don’t think anyone other than them even could invent the next web.

Whoever does, will have to invent their own hardware too I guess.


Internet is bigger than Web browsers and Hypermedia systems are even older.

There is plently of room for inovation.

Emabrace network protocols and native apps.


Just want to point out that your scenario could not obtain because he App Store model depends on the Internet for distribution. Microsoft could not have strangled the web with an App Store for Windows because an App Store for Windows couldn’t exist without widespread internet adoption. And widespread internet adoption depended on the web.


That would have pushed Microsoft even further into the anit-trust shit they were in.

Also you had more technical users back then as the majority of the base who really wouldn't have stood for that. Hell, most probably wouldn't have stood for mandatory OS activation via modem if Microsoft had required it.


Imagine if AOL had created 'apps' you could run, only while connected to AOL? I mean they had games and things like being able to buy airline tickets, and chat rooms, but imagine if there were 3rd party access.


They did, they had 'sites' that were just AOL pages existing inside their own framework. They only added the broader internet access later. Same with CompuServe, all similar services like those had proprietary pages like a massive worldwide BBS system.

You could not see AOL pages from CompuServe and vice versa.


"Just search for AOL Keyword %n"


No, I would be typing this on comp.hackernews on a tiny 300 KB native app instead.


But Apple has had a bunch of problems with crapware in their store. If they were actually vetting stuff, then I'd kind of agree, but as it stands, you are being limited on what you can do with your own device, but without the benefits. Their security feels a lot like the TSA: It's only there to give you warm fuzzies.

I agree that Android is worse, but that doesn't make Apple's store "Good".


Apple has crapware in the store, but the crapware can’t do the things that SpyPhone can on Android.


> I agree that Android is worse, but that doesn't make Apple's store "Good".


The apps on the store can be good or bad, I don’t care if Apple makes that judgement. I want iOS to limit what any app can do - which it does based on a much better security model.


Ah, I see what you mean, and yes, Apple has better permissions control.

As it turns out, giving the user ultimate control is really the best way to handle these types of things.


Windows is very different from iOS in that it had no sandbox and its API allowed developers to do everything they wanted. Users unknowingly granted admin privileges to every application they ran.

iOS, on the other hand, restricts its apps heavily - they are sandboxed, can't access other apps' files (no ransomware) and need explicit user permission to meddle with their private data.

Now, yes, exploits exist, but look at macOS - Apple still controls developer certificates and can pull the plug on misbehaving developers. An alternative to the app store wouldn't be nearly as devastating as win32.

You raise an interesting point about Android malware. Does it stem from the fact that Android apps can access the filesystem?


The biggest issue on Android is side loading and lack of updates.

Since Android 7, apps cannot any longer access filesystem outside their APK installation directory. All accesses must be done via SAF APIs.


> I well remember the state of Windows during Win 98 and XP where most had no idea what they were downloading, and it seemed every machine had malware, hidden pop ups and 37 IE toolbars. I was constantly asked to clean up friend's machines from the damage done by Kazaa and its associated garbage or some other drive-by crap.

I still prefer that personally than the crippled smartphones.


That's fantastic.

Some people agree with your views and there are products and software distributions in the market to satisfy them. Some people prefer the way Apple does things. Everyone's preferences are being catered for, and that is wonderful.


the crippled smartphones won the war, there's no real "usable" product for my preferences unfortunately :/.


Can you not install whatever app you want on an Android phone, as long as you enable sideloading in the settings?


I don't really want an app system, I would like a linux-like alternative where I can do a script to cat /dev/gps0 for example to record my location, or just ssh into my phone. I don't like at all the way Android is done.


Maybe I have my nostalgia lenses on, but I think I'd rather have the internet of kazaa era in terms of how things were working.

There were viruses? Yes. 37 IE toolbars? Of course! But consider for a moment what we have today instead: Instead of the simple and (comparatively) mostly harmless viruses we now have ransomware. Instead of kazaa installing spyware we have the OS itself trying to phone home. Instead of having a virus to delete random files, you now have one of the Big 4 delete stuff from your device without asking you.

You say we had crapware we had to avoid back then, I see that today we install the crapware ourselves and consider it a treat. Back then when you bought a piece of software you owned it. You didn't have micro transactions and DLCs and all these "innovations" that drive "engagement". You didn't have to have data connection to sync something with bluetooth.

Sure there were also some crappy things, but things are not all that better today. We just got used to it.


Huge nostalgia lenses. It was never that great, and besides there's no going back: the computing model of 15+ years ago simply wouldn't survive contact with the latest sophisticated strategies of malice and manipulation.

The reality is >95% of the population don't want to be, don't know how to be, or simply don't have the spare time to be the systems administrator for all of their technology. The computing model that Apple offers with iOS and the App Store is—in effect—the outsourcing of systems administration to a competent third party.

For most people this is not really any different to outsourcing the maintenance of your house to a cleaning service, or the maintenance of your car to a mechanic, or the minding of your children to a daycare provider. For most people the notion of "computing freedom" is not useful or helpful.

I'm the "computer help guy" for my extended family, and believe me, I am very thankful for Apple's approach because the amount of sysadmin-style assistance I've been asked to provide has absolutely plummeted. For many people who just want to browse the internet, an iPad is way better than a Windows PC. There are people in my family for whom I would fear for their bank accounts if they still used a Windows PC. I don't spend a moment's time worrying about the possibility of malware on their iPads.


I prefer sandmboxes, stores and containers than having to go through a pile of floppies with anti-virus and still be unsure of how safe they were.


As long as real computers don't go extinct, I can agree with this. I don't mind trusted computing; the problem is who owns the keys.


Better that a company like Apple holds the keys to my parents' iPads than my parents. Way better. Waaaaay better.


Yes, I agree with this. People who don't know or care should get devices that they don't have to manage themselves.

Personally I enjoy having the ability to write and run programs for the hardware I paid for without having to beg some company for their permission and blessing. As long as I always have that option, I don't mind.


Freedom is slavery.


As a consumer, I love it.

I love that I buy an iPhone and Apple doesn't allow any non-trusted binaries to run on my phone, enforces strict style guidelines (the average app just looks better on my iPhone than Android IMO), has one place where all possible apps are, maintains a distribution channels that allows all my apps to be updated easily, and builds hardware and software that is designed to work together.

I love my iPhone because Apple is such sticklers about apps, design, and creating a consistently nice user experience. The average user doesn't care about how "open" Android is. They just want something that works.

Even if you didn't want to go the walled garden approach, who could look at how Europe treats Android and come to the conclusion that Google made the right decision by being open?


Is it that you love that they don't give you the choice of restricting or not restricting installs? Or simply appreciate that app vetting and security are services you're willing to pay for. It seems more like the latter, but you're expressing more like the former.

I can see the value in the vetting service to a lot of people, but I just don't understand the idea of embracing a forced restriction on other people that you happen to like yourself.


> I can see the value in the vetting service to a lot of people, but I just don't understand the idea of embracing a forced restriction on other people that you happen to like yourself.

Here are some benefits to the one-size-fits-all policy Apple uses:

* Developers are forced to comply with Apple's rules. Otherwise companies could develop shitty apps that use private APIs to work around Apple's restrictions and then force customers to open up their devices to use it.

* Apple and every 3rd-party support person/company/family member in the world isn't forced to deal with a steady stream of "Somebody told me to change this setting and now my phone has a virus" support requests.

* People aren't misled (more than they already are) about the safety of the iOS ecosystem by a steady stream of news stories about people who changed the setting and got their phone infected.


> * Developers are forced to comply with Apple's rules. Otherwise companies could develop shitty apps that use private APIs to work around Apple's restrictions and then force customers to open up their devices to use it.

This. Apple consistently chooses to make workaround options complex for the purposes of discouraging this sort of activity.

See:

* Deprecated APIs are actually obsoleted and removed; your app won't run in the new OS version and that means people buying hardware can't run your app.

* Right click has long been a hardware feature but off by default, so that apps wouldn't build in non-standard mouse 'gestures'.

* New ITP anti-tracking features in Safari have no off switch The solution to cookie issues is to change how your app works (such that you don't use hidden cross-domain redirects/frames)

* Side loading apps onto iOS devices is not possible without a business profile or the end user having a development environment - and misused business profiles are revoked.

* The option to turn off app signatures has been removed from the UI (not always the case - Minecraft for instance used to tell users to turn app signature verification off globally to work around their lack of app signing).

* Android has a list of permissions you must grant apps in order to install them. iOS on the other hand requires the application to prompt for individual permissions (location information, microphone access, etc), requires a description of why they want that permission, and per App Store guidelines must run with (reduced) functionality should the user say no.


Everything you posted is a benefit to the developer but not the end user.


You have a strange interpretation of that list. Additional privacy in web views, selective privacy controls for app permissions, how exactly are those developer enhancements and not user benefits?


Apple and people who buy into the apple ecosystem believe that it's actually better, and not that it's simply what they personally prefer.

Forcing a perceived "best path" means that the path is going to be the easiest / only way for everyone to follow, and therefore can receive the most attention / most bug fixes / most thought from executives & developers / etc.

Now of course, some people will still disagree about whether that was indeed the best path, and whether it should've been forced. These people strangely never seem to become Apple executives. :)


I'm fine with the restriction, given that the App store needs to vet all the apps coming through. I have never felt there wasn't an app for what I was looking for.


I would have loved it if Apple had opened up some APIs (for example, the NFC updates coming in iOS 12) sooner.


You could still have app store and side channels. If you want security and Apple stamp of approval just use default app store. If you want cheaper apps, maybe from trustworthy trusted companies, install them as well.

Supporting obligatory 30% tax on any developer work makes my blood boil. If Apple model wins it will be a disaster for innovation and salaries. I will never buy or recommended Apple products for this reason. It's worth it to me a stand even if user experience is temporarily better.


The moment a consumer-ready side channel is created, a few major brands will decide that delivering their app that way is better than conforming to Apple's rules and the whole security model comes crashing down.

If it can be used by a major brand, some unscrupulous actor will gently guide my parents through whatever convoluted steps are required to enable it for their seemingly useful app loaded with badware.

I'm glad there's no side channel.


We've gotten by on MacOS for a long time with relatively decent Security - everyone always assumes that allowing side-loading on iOS will be a wave of viruses and malware. Apples pretty good at securing an OS, but allowing side loading would impact their profits.


If you compare it thinking of it as a sales tax model, Apple’s tax rate is almost 43%.

Dev sells app for $0.69, Apple adds a 43% tax on top ($0.30), for a cost to consumer of $0.99 before paying the state/local tax.


I don't quite get the last sentence.

> who could look at how Europe treats Android and come to the conclusion that Google made the right decision by being open?

Google was fined on antitrust grounds. I don't see which direction to leap to make that sentence relevant to them being fined.

From the EU’s competition commissioner

> Fine of €4,34 bn to @Google for 3 types of illegal restrictions on the use of Android. In this way it has cemented the dominance of its search engine. Denying rivals a chance to innovate and compete on the merits. It’s illegal under EU antitrust rules. @Google now has to stop it


Android is free, which unequivocally is a net positive for consumers and smartphone manufacturers. Google places some terms of use to their software and suddenly they're being "anti-competitive." Had they made Android a walled garden like Apple, they wouldn't have been fined.


> Had they made Android a walled garden like Apple, they wouldn't have been fined....Android is free, which unequivocally is a net positive for consumers

It's unequivocally a positive if they play by the rules. They fell foul of Europe(who was protecting it's consumers).

Google's not a charity and made the choices they made to get to where they are. Making Android free ensured they quickly became relevant in the emerging mobile market without having to invest massive amounts in designing/making/manufacturing devices (alongside the risks), if doing Apple way. Or if they went the MS way and tried to sell a closed source OS to device manufacturers, those device manufacturers may instead have chosen a different, more polished OS from a company who had more experience/better reputation in that field.

> Google places some terms of use to their software and suddenly they're being "anti-competitive."

You can drop the scare quotes, it's not "anti-competitive", it's just anti-competitive.


> Google's not a charity and made the choices they made to get to where they are.

That's my point. They chose the option where everyone wins the most, especially themselves. The alternatives would have set the smartphone industry back several years as Google would struggle to make phones and phone manufactures would struggle to make a halfway-decent operating system. Google's policies are "anti-competitive" in the same sense that charging money for their operating system or enforcing copyright is "anti-competitive." In one case, you're forcing companies to pay for your product. In the other case, you're forcing the companies to follow a set of rules to use your product.


> phone manufactures would struggle to make a halfway-decent operating system

They'd have bought from one of the other mobile OS vendors(Symbian, MS) or made their own (Nokia w/Maemo). It could be argued that Google distributing Android for free(so as to ensure the continued dominance/inclusion of Google Search) did set the smartphone industry back. Who the hell wants to compete against free? Even more so when that "free" is coming from a XXX billion dollar company. Which is maybe why MS gave up on mobile OS, or Symbian no longer exists or Maemo.

> you're forcing the companies to follow a set of rules to use your product

...and Europe found those rules broke the existing law.


On Android, I can install whatever I want, replace whatever I want. Hell, I can even install another App store if I wanted.

On iOS, you can't do any of that.

How is that not infinitely more anti-competitive? Somehow licensing software to other manufacturers makes you more anti-competitive then owning the entire pipeline?


I agree that IOS is way more anti-competitive. The problem is that anti-trust laws only take effect when some lawmaker defines something as a monopoly. In the android 5 billion dollar fine case, the EU used "percent of of smartphones running an OS" or more specifically, any OS that has >50% market share because the fine goes back to 2011 when android crossed the 50% threshold in the EU.


> Somehow licensing software to other manufacturers makes you more anti-competitive then owning the entire pipeline?

Yes, giving out a product for free to kill off existing competitors and prevent potential competitors from gaining a foothold is anti-competitive.


Apple put restrictions on phones that it manufactured, google put restrictions on phones other people manufactured.

I don't support either, but there is a clear reason why what google did got caught by anti trust laws.


Google got caught because their OS crossed the >50% market share in 2011 (That is literally the definition for monopoly that the EU used in their fine because the fine specifically charges back to 2011).


One of those terms of use was that manufacturers couldn’t make competing phones that used non Google approved forks. How is that any better than what MS did back in the day?


Only if they're the only ones using Android. Regardless of how you want to complain about this, the fact of the matter is, they're abusing their monopoly to put additional restrictions on OEMs, which is a big no-no.


> Denying rivals a chance to innovate and compete on the merits

Apple consistently gives its apps more permissions than normal developers they get. They also reject apps that interfere with business fields they are in/eyeing.


Name one....


Their apps are free to use private APIs and other devs are banned from using them


I keep hearing this use of “private APIs” that Microsoft and Apple use and think it’s some evil plot.

This how software engineering works.

If I have a publicly released module, I define a public methods that are my interface and private methods that my interface uses.

Of course as the implementator I’m going to have “private APIs” that only I use. In the next release, I might change the entire underlying implementation get rid of private methods, etc. but still not change the public api. You as a developer shouldn’t depend on “private apis” and Apple should have no obligation not to break apps that depend on them.

To be even more blunt. There is no such thing as a “private API”. The Application Programmers Interface is the published spec that developers should use. By definition, if it’s private, it’s not an “API”.


Android isn't truly open though. Sure, the AOSP is. However, before Gingerbread there were still a lot of advantages reserved for those who entered a commercial relationship - for instance, access to the Google Apps (mail, calendar, chrome).

Post-Gingerbread, Google has put the vast majority of their development into the Google Play APIs, which are not open and are only available to partners. This means that use of things like chromecast (for instance) are restricted to apps distributed through the Play store, and handsets running partner builds of Android.


Just give us the ability to manually whitelist external developers signing keys. That way you can choose to only install apple signed apps (the current situation which would become the default of the new system) or to accept apple signed apps + selected devs applications (which is currently impossible). It already works on OSX.


All this plus-it is so much easier to have all my subscriptions for apps in one place to know who I'm paying monthly, and to able to cancel them all in one place through Apple.

I'm tired of signing up for subscriptions and going through a series of dark patterns on a zillion websites to figure out how to manage and cancel my subscriptions. The worst is when there's one click to subscribe and they make you phone in to an annoying retention specialist to cancel.


As a consumer I feel much safer recommending iPhones to friends and family. Play Store is a minefield and that scares me. But on iPhone my mom can wander around the App Store and I don't have to worry too much about her wrecking her phone because some app couldn't be trusted.

As a developer I hate it :/


+1 = I love iPhone for that + their privacy stance.

+1 = I will never build (or invest into) business that is built on a single platform controlled by someone else.


As a consumer, you're paying 30% on every app purchase for that privilege. That's a pretty high tax on all your apps, if you ask me.


Considering how cheap apps are an extra 30% for some level of quality guarantee is a steal


Do you really think that makes any difference? It's not like the App Store isn't full of shovel ware. I think it'd be much nicer to have an actual 3rd party curated alternative app store. Maybe one with a working search. Too bad we can't do that.


30% on a subscription-based model is not cheap. Calculate that over a year or more, and that's not exactly pocket change.

That's roughly $40 per year that goes into Apple's pocket on an $11/month subscription in the name of marginal security.


The monolithic stacks are targeting the "average" person, who just wants to get a thing done, rather than worry about the how to get to the point where you can do a thing. Those stacks are great for that sort of thing: pay small fee without thinking about it, really, and then just do the thing.

That all falls apart if you're an over-thinker, penny-wise, or a skeptic, though. By virtue of having some tech-savvy, you are automatically sort-of excluded from the target marketing for most platform/app/marketplace stacks. You want to pick and chose to try and gain efficiency or cost-savings or whatever.


Has there not always been unequal distribution of apps / content across platforms?


I do think the Apple/Google cut has been natural. The phone and successful app stores aren't accidents, they're endpoints in a long chain of work to focus consumer attention in a way that sells software.

That said, these benefits have an expiration date. I don't think the app store cut has been a ripoff for its entire history, but if the temperature of the room has shifted toward hostility, it might be that they've spent the goodwill they earned with their innovation and now it's time for a more sustainable long term arrangement.

We can find middle ground between "Apple did nothing for me" and "Apple deserves 30% of software sales for eternity"


But to negotiate that, you have to be able to threaten them with leaving. And there's no other way to get iPhone users, who are by far the biggest spenders. And if you're going to go this route of web-only transactions, you're going to have some user drop-off and missed sales, it's just a question of how much. Like, where does it make sense to switch. If its 30% drop off it doesn't matter either way. If its 15% or 5%, you'd better do it. If it's 70%, no way in hell should you do it. And I can guarantee you that every app business will have a different number for this, and it's nearly impossible to know what the drop off is before making the jump. So many are not willing to leave, and here we are. Netflix has a strong multi-platform use case already, so it's a natural move for them. Other apps may not fair so well. I think losing these larger companies is somewhat inevitable as long as the rates stay this high. We'll see Apple fight to retain them, but it would be a real surprise to see them booted from the platform over the switch, since they are still adding value. And can you imagine the backlash over the even less fair solution: Apple decides to negotiate special rates for these behemoths (just to keep them honest) while charging upstart developers the full rate! That would cause even more outrage than the 30%!


It would be interesting if Netflix decided to straight up call Apple's bluff on their revenue restriction. Would Apple risk losing Netflix on the iPhone to enforce their rule about web signup links? Netflix is a ubiquitous expectation, and if it got delisted, Google and Samsung would have a field day talking about how you had to get an Android to get Netflix.


The answer is yes. They already fought with Spotify over this. Spotify had to clean up their game quite a bit to pass App Store review. Apple still has plenty of leverage. Being the highest grossing app on the platform is a double edged sword - and Netflix needs to be on iOS even more than Apple needs them to. But it's very unlikely that Apple would go so far as to delist Netflix. Apple will just reject the new updates until Netflix submits a version that plays by the rules. If Apple delisted an approved (live) version of any app based on something extra that turned up during review of a newer update, and the change wasn't in the live version, that would be unprecedented as far as I know, and likely an error that would be corrected promptly. And the Netflix user base is so big, there's almost no way that error would be allowed to happen.


I think Spotify needs Apple far more than Netflix does. You don't listen to Spotify (for the most part) on TVs, but Netflix is there.

Many fewer folks use Spotify on desktop OSs, it's common for Netflix.

Netflix is well positioned to fight Apple over this, and if they call Apple's bluff, Apple will likely be forced to consider.


There’s no bluff . Sure Netflix could live on without iOS. But what would be the point of giving up 70% of iOS because they couldn’t get the 30%. It’s not even a problem for them . They’ll be able to move it to the browser just fine and keep 100% they just won’t be able to link it from the app . There’s no fight to be had . Apple has a stronger reason for not linking to external websites where users would be asked to put in their credit cards then just to make sure they get their 30% from the netflixes of the world.


Why can Netflix just use the mobile browser? Are they allowing downloads for offline viewing? If they are only online streaming I see no reason at all to even have an app. Just a mobile web page. Can somebody enlighten me?


> Are they allowing downloads for offline viewing?

They do for quite a few items in their catalog - probably not even a majority, but quite a few nonetheless.


User experience is better in apps


In my experience it depends on the site and the app. Streaming vids seems like a perfect job for the browser.


Agree but overall users seem to prefer apps versus browsers at a ratio of 9 to 1 (in terms of time spent in each medium) .


I'm sure it would cause outrage, but I can definitely imagine a negotiation happening. It's in both Apple and Netflix's best interest to stay together. The rest is just negotiating a percentage that works.

Of course, there is no way they would use that negotiated the percentage for the rest of us.

I think it would take an anti-trust action of some sort to cause a dent here, but I'm not holding my breath.


> And there's no other way to get iPhone users, who are by far the biggest spenders.

Well, it's not like iPhone users can't simply buy Androids. I have mostly iOS household with a few Androids sitting around - mostly unpowered and gathering dust (kids use them mainly to watch Netflix on road trips).

I think Netflix has a strong position to negotiate with Apple over this.


So you’re saying your think Netflix has a strong position due to you having a few android devices laying around for occasional Netflix use in addition to your iOS devices? To me, the argument that people will just buy cheap androids just for Netflix is like, ok maybe 5% will, so then Netflix only loses 95% of their iOS revenue by leaving the App Store. But it’s a completely moot point because it’s very unlikely that Netflix would do something to cause their app to be removed from the store. Like, its always going to be better to have 70% of iOS rev than 0%. It’s kind of like talking about what would happen if Russia nuked the US.

Its true that both companies have a strong position. Netflix just doesn’t have quite as much leverage in theirs.

They’ll be allowed to move the purchase off the App Store just like Amazon / Spotify have done, so long as they don’t link to it directly from the app. The question that remains is when will smaller apps start to follow suit, and will they be able to get away with what Netflix / Amazon / Spotify do, and what will be the effect of this pressure? It’s hard for an unknown developer to say “hey, actually, go to my website to do this and heh, sorry but, I can’t link you there!” But for behemoths, it’s almost trivial to do so. There will still be user drop off there even for behemoths, just likely not as bad.


> Epic Games will be launching its hit game Fortnite for Android on its own website, and fans will only be able to download the game there, not on Google Play ... while the setting that blocks third-party installations can be disabled on Android phones.

If they are talking about disabling it system wide vs disabling it for a single application, is this not pretty irresponsible? Lots of kids play Fortnite, saying "hey to play your favourite game just disable this security setting" to millions of them seems risky.


You're right that it's a bad situation for millions of kids to be told to turn off security settings, it seems like that's a bad situation for Android/Google/Samsung than it is for Epic Games. It's kind of Google's own fault for tying their 'security' into a huge tax. If Google offered certification for a fixed cost then this wouldn't be an issue - you could distribute certified apps yourself and not have the problem. The problem is they tied certification into a tax and appearing in the appstore.


> The problem is they tied certification into a tax and appearing in the appstore.

If you were more profit motivated, you might argue the problem is allowing externally installed software. Granted they foolishly obtained too large of a market share to have any say in that anymore.

If you care about users though, yes, the cost barriers for devs are a problem no matter who puts them up. Ideally the cost is in the phone purchase, not the continued use.


Hopefully these kids will be exposed to the idea that they can choose what software they use rather than being limited to a curated store.


They will most likely be scammed into downloading spyware.


Which is a valuable lesson - a lesson in learning to be a rational, critical, grown-up human being. Or we could educate them and it might never happen. Also, let's not forget that many closed system are spyware already.

Many of us became deeply involved in tech because some person (thanks Pat Volkerding!) or organization gave us a system were we could do whatever the hell we wanted.


> Which is a valuable lesson - a lesson in learning to be a rational, critical, grown-up human being.

Well... you can phrase it like some life lesson, sure. In reality 1% of 3 million kids clicking on 'Free vbux!!' and converting is 30,000 kids having malware ridden phones, doing god knows what to god knows who.

Is increasing the profits of malware distributors by so much really worth some hand-wavy "teach kids to become a grown up" lesson?

Also, it's not just the kids. By any margin.


In reality 1% of 3 million kids clicking on 'Free vbux!!' and converting is 30,000 kids having malware ridden phones, doing god knows what to god knows who.

Well, most of those kids will run outdated Android versions with many known vulnerabilities. And they cannot update their phones, because they have locked firmware and walled-garden OS, largely put in place to make them buy new phones.

Again, the proper solution beyond a good security baseline is to educate people.


> ...they cannot update their phones, because they have locked firmware and walled-garden OS, largely put in place to make them buy new phones.

This is one of the biggest problems with the mobile landscape, with Apple, Google, and OEMs culpable to various degrees. It's deeply unethical, selfish, and wasteful.


> Again, the proper solution beyond a good security baseline is to educate people.

"The beatings will continue until your security improves!"


I'd rather my kids get a few bruises than be slaves to The Man.


>Many of us became deeply involved in tech because some person (thanks Pat Volkerding!) or organization gave us a system were we could do whatever the hell we wanted.

Surely you can understand why letting people do whatever the hell they want might not be the best thing when people's personal and financial data is on the line.


Surely you can understand why letting people do whatever the hell they want might

As a default no. But there should always be an option (with appropriate warnings) to do with your device what you want to do with it.

might not be the best thing when people's personal and financial data is on the line.

Even on a walled garden device people will open phishing mails and log in to phishing websites. There will always be attack vectors. Beyond a reasonable baseline in security (sandboxing between applications, etc.), the most important thing to do is to educate people on proper security practices.


The burned hand teaches best.


Yeah, agreed.

A lot of computer knowledge comes from trying something, failing, and then learning how to recover.

I learned a lot from bricking my laptop in my early teens downloading roms and warez, and then understanding whats safe and what's not, and with little long term consequences.


Having grown up in the time of Windows being very malware-heavy, it was not the children getting scammed.

And much of the bad behavior, such as simple apps bombarding people with ads, is standard in programs found in mobile app stores now anyway.


Darn, this is really "think of the kids" all over.

You don't need to download spyware with virtually any mobile phone, pretty much everyone out there is doing already(recent ref: google maps)


I think Google Maps is in a different league when we're talking about actual spyware that means to do you harm. Google just wants to track your location, while this other crap will spam you phone calls and try to brick your phone for money.

I'm all for more freedoms when installing apps, but Google Maps isn't the same as this other shit.


Think of the kids has always been an excuse to restrict people.


Not an Android nor Fortnite user, but I believe from other reports there is a prompt to re-enable the setting after installing the app.


It's possible they're using the uncomfortable security risks as a play to get better terms out of Google.


> If they are talking about disabling it system wide vs disabling it for a single application, is this not pretty irresponsible?

It's not a system wide setting, it's an app-specific setting (that is, it's for the app you wish to be able to install other apps.)

Setting it to “allow” for the default browser and leaving it that way is something of an issue, though.


So in this case Chrome or Firefox? Does not seem any better. In fact, way worse.


I don't think this is how it works, at least not from my past experience with Lineage. A browser isn't an app installer, as when you download an APK from it, the APK is staged through the phone's integrated file manager (aka "Downloads" app), and is treated as having no real source.

As far as I know, real "app installers" are purpose-built programs such as Amazon Appstore and F-Droid.


Hmm, you might be right, but I installed an APK recently (also on Lineage) and it asked me to authorize Firefox, it had the Firefox logo and seemed to suggest that future installs would be authorized. I cancelled it and opened it through the file manager.


Hmm, that might be one of the changes made in Oreo. Weird, I don't think it's a very good change either.


In my experience its only an app-specific setting on Samsung devices. Their phones give you a prompt for disabling the setting "just this one time".


It's app-specific for any phone running Oreo or newer.


Android doesn't have system wide sideloading anymore, if I allow sideloading for one app its still disabled for other apps.


This is not much of an issue with newer versions of Android. see Tim Sweeney's tweet about the situation: https://twitter.com/TimSweeneyEpic/status/102553539172465049...


IIRC, the setting only needs to be disabled temporarily to allow the installation of a third party app. If you re-enable the blocking setting after you install the game, I don't see any reason things can't work and be secure.


How will they handle updates?


Installing a downloaded APK means you miss out on Google's identity verification process, and maybe on Google's malicious code scanning -- but Google Play Protect says it will scan all apps on your device, and may upload your apps to Google[1], so it might not be that big of a difference in practice, if you get linked into the appstore by a shady website, you can get a shady app.

There's a bigger difference on iOS, if a similar setting was even available, because Apple curates much more strongly than Google.

[1] https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/2812853?hl=en


Unless there's a different app store doing the same thing. (Such as Amazon app store for Android or F-Droid)


Is it not irresponsible for the platform to force the choice to be that coarse-grained?


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